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How to Win at eBay:
Finding Deals
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July 2011     top of How to Win at eBay     Index of detail pages

 

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In life, deals are found when you come across something no one else has.

There are rarely deals on eBay. So many people use eBay that you're not going to find anything that hundreds of other users haven't also found.

At a garage sale, you will probably be the only person who recognizes the funny old Leica as being worth more than $15. You'll offer the seller $5, settle on $10, and you won.

A week later on eBay, the first guy bids $10 for it, and at the close, 38 people have bid it up to four figures.

eBay is not the place to look for deals, but if you do, here is the way.

The key on eBay, as in life, is to find things no one else has. This is much tougher on eBay, because there are thousands of other people looking for precisely these same deals at the same time.

I've bought hundreds of items over eBay. The only two deals I've ever gotten was a wonderful Nikon manual focus 35-70mm f/3.5 AI-s for $38, and a focus screen I didn't need for my F4 for $1.24. I got lucky in these cases; out of hundreds of items, each of these simply had not much of anyone else looking for them when I did.

That's it for deals, but I've gotten dozens of boxes of junk.

On eBay, I get what I pay for, or maybe a little more, and I'm happy. As I must emphasize, eBay is for finding odd and unusual used items, not for buying anything new or recent.

 

Buy-it-Now

Most Buy-it-Now offers are just the seller dreaming. However, once in a while, a real deal can show up as a Buy-it-Now.

When they do, the people who spend their lives looking for these snatch them up within seconds.

If you find a new listing (less than a few hours old) and it looks like a deal, it just might be. Anything left out as a buy-it-now for more than a few hours is probably overpriced.

 

Reasonable Opening Bids

This is another way sellers cheat themselves, but these can treat you to a deal.

Many sellers are afraid that their listing won't sell at the right price, so they cripple their entire listing with what seems like a reasonable starting bid.

For an item worth $100, they figure that $75 is a reasonable starting bid.

$75 might be in a live auction, but eBay isn't a real auction. In a live auction, if there are no takers, within seconds the auctioneer drops the opening bid, just to get things started.

One of the worst things a seller can do to himself is list something with an opening bid of anything other than a few dollars.

What happens is that no sucker early-bids come in, and the listing flounders. No bids come in at all, or maybe not until the final moments.

Here is where buyers win: because the cowardly seller has cheated himself out of all the early sucker bids, his auction looks like something is wrong with it. Others aren't watching it, and no one is bidding on it, so even fewer people check it out.

If you've done your homework, often you can bid properly at the last second with little competition. As always, bid only at the last second and bid the highest you can pay for it.

 

Misspellings

If someone offers a Nikkon or a Lieca, it will never appear for searches for Nikon or Leica. eBay isn't as smart as Google; it just won't show up.

You still won't find these deals, because there are plenty of other people deliberatelty adding misspellings in their search terms. There are people who earn their meager livings looking for misspelt listings.

 

Good Items Hidden inside Boring Listings

If someone is selling a camera and a few lenses as a package, rarely does every item fit into the title.

You can click a box to search the descriptions as well as titles. Lots of other bargain hunters are doing the same thing.

The only way you might find a bargain is if you're expert at identifying every possible lens or accessory by sight. Since sellers often have no idea what they're selling, if he has something unusual and doesn't realize it, only the photo might disclose what it is along with a mundane item and description.

I've seen people sell crappy cameras, like the Nikon EM, with a $500 lens attached, and they sold for $75. Only if you recognized the lens by sight would you know, because the seller didn't know to list it in his written description.

I knew it was a $500 lens by looking very carefully at the fuzzy photos, and realizing that the lens wasn't just a "wide angle" like a 28mm E, but a 24mm f/2, or not just a 50mm lens, but a 50mm f/1.2. Few people have the skills to sort this stuff out, but if you're reading my site, you probably do.

 

Bluebirds

If you're a salesman, a "bluebird" is a big order that just shows up on its own.

On eBay, pro sellers won't do this, but guys like you and I who are just getting rid of unused stuff may throw some extra goodies in the box because they don't want to bother listing them separately.

I had one seller drop an extra Zoom-NIKKOR 80-200mm f/4 AI-s, one of the world's best zooms, into the box with something else I bought because it was a little crunchy and therefore not nice enough to sell outright. As a good seller, he realized he couldn't honestly sell this to anyone else, but realized that I probably would appreciate it. I did!

 

Next: Buy-it-Now

back to top of How to Win at eBay.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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